Thursday, December 29, 2011

On Warmer Music's Favorite Albums of 2011 [7-1]

So here it is, the end of the list. For a year that started relatively slow, I'm impressed by the quality of music we've ended up seeing from 2011.

It was a tough year and all these albums were created with that context in mind to a greater or lesser degree. It wasn't a year for frivolity but that doesn't mean this is all dour music. Indeed what made most of these records so necessary was their ability to acknowledge life's hardships and take something worthwhile and uplifting away from the experience. With that in mind, enjoy some albums to soundtrack your dancing at the end of the world!

15. Handsome Furs - Sound Kapital
14. Nick Lowe - The Old Magic
13. Le Butcherettes - Sin, Sin, Sin
12. EMA - Past Life Martyred Saint
11. Fountains Of Wayne - Sky Full Of Holes
10. The Roots - Undun
9. Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring For My Halo

8. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

On Warmer Music's Favorite Albums of 2011 [15-8]

I sometimes can't help but wonder why one would make both a favorite albums and favorite songs list for a given year. There's obviously bound to be a great deal of overlap between the two, why not just combine them?

Without waxing too rhapsodic about the joys of a well-crafted, contextless single or an inseparably extended musical statement, I'd like to humbly submit that there are some artists who shine over three minutes but drag over forty while others might not make songs designed to be heard on shuffle but can use mood, placement and other tools to design brilliant musical collections that demand to be appreciated as whole units.

Therefore it is with great excitement but also extreme modesty that I present my favorite albums of the past year. Bon appetit!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Concert Review - Wilco at The Vic, December 15, 2011

Some days you listen to music because you like it. On other days, you listen to music because you need it. I didn't realize it at the time, but yesterday was one of the latter. It was a day like one that we've all had. You know, rough week, work problems, bad weather, etc. To top it off, my girlfriend was sick, so I had nobly suggested we sit in the balcony rather than try and hug the stage - a suggestion which landed me distressingly close to the rafters in the old theater.

We were at The Vic for something a long time in the making - Wilco's triumphant Chicago return. As part of their "amazing shrinking residency", they had already played the Civic Opera House on Monday and the Riviera on Tuesday and now they were settling into the relative cosy confines where they recorded their 2006 live album, Kicking Television. Not only that, but they were doing it the right way, inviting Chicago scene legends to open each night, which meant that tonight we'd get to see Jon Langford and his band Skull Orchard.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On Warmer Music's Favorite Songs of 2011 [10-1]

So here it is, the thrilling conclusion. Although 2011 felt like a little bit of a down year for music compared to 2010, I was surprised by how difficult cutting songs off this list proved to be. It's a testament to the incredibly open and accessible nature of modern technology and media that even a "down" year is so fulled with exciting, interesting, catchy, happy, depressing and otherwise amazing music.

Download On Warmer Music's Favorite Songs Of 2011
[See Tracks 30-21]
30. Cold Rain - Talib Kweli
29. Summer Song - Matt Duncan
28. Baby's Arms - Kurt Vile
27. Holy Holy - Wye Oak
26. Freaks and Geeks - Childish Gambino
25. I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl - Wavves
24. Midnight City - M83
23. Time Is Right - The Feelies
22. Weekend - Smith Westerns
21. Metropolis - Illinois
[See Tracks 20-11]
20. Video Games - Lana Del Ray
19. Shaking Hands - Title Tracks
18. Codeine - Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit
17. Never Quite Free - Mountain Goats
16. Pulaski - Drive-By Truckers
15. Waiting For Kirsten - Jens Lekman
14. War's Blazing Disciples - The Eternals
13. The Leibniz Language - Le Butcherettes 
12. Nat Geo (feat. Chris Lee) - G-Side
11. The Summer Place - Fountains of Wayne

Saturday, December 10, 2011

On Warmer Music's Favorite Songs of 2011 [20-11]

Welcome to the second installment of On Warmer Music's favorite songs of this year. Before we get started, first a quick review.

[See Tracks 30-21]
30. Cold Rain - Talib Kweli
29. Summer Song - Matt Duncan
28. Baby's Arms - Kurt Vile
27. Holy Holy - Wye Oak
26. Freaks and Geeks - Childish Gambino
25. I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl - Wavves
24. Midnight City - M83
23. Time Is Right - The Feelies
22. Weekend - Smith Westerns
21. Metropolis - Illinois

And now, on to the next ten!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

On Warmer Music's Favorite Songs Of 2011 [30-21]

End of the year lists are stupid. They're arbitrary (really, this is your 27th favorite song, without a doubt?). They're needlessly competitive. They're certainly subject to change (I doubt there's ever been a year whose list I wouldn't have done a major revision of twelve months later). As definitive statements about the year in music go, they're an inexact and certainly somewhat juvenile attempt where even a good list is bound to fail as much as it succeeds.

But oh, how I love them so. Like so many geeky males, I love lists and arbitrary rankings. I love reading other peoples and thinking how wrong they are while simultaneously compiling my own in my head. I love the months of debate such lists can engender. I love stopping to take stock of the somewhat capricious mixture of new music I've listened to in the past twelve months. I love the time-capsule nature of these lists and how they allow us to occasionally step back and see what we've actually done (err, heard) in the past year while we've been busy living life. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Windy City Christmas Holiday - The On Warmer Music 2011 Christmas Mix

I'm an only child. Indeed, the only offspring on one whole side of my family. Needless to say, this meant that Christmas was a holiday that was kind to me while growing up. But even looking beyond the consumptive orgy that went with it, Christmas was a favorite time of mine. The ritualistic nature of the holiday, the anticipation, the changing seasons, all of these things held my imagination as a child, creating warm associations that still tug mercilessly at me every December.

My family had a few old Christmas tapes that my father had made years before I was born for winter drives from Chicago to New Jersey with my mother to visit his family. They were mixtures of hymns, secular standards and a few (relatively) newer holiday pop songs. The juxtaposition of old and new along with the pacing and selection that is a feature of any good mix lent the tapes a timeless quality. Those tapes were Christmas to me as a child.